Notice Dyck’s statement that, while they (Millennials) have a dim view of the Church and are skeptical of religion in general, yet they are still thirsty for transcendence. He says that what they need (and what they actually want though they might not know it) is a “ravishing vision of a loving and holy God.”
What is meant by the theological term transcendence? It has been defined as “existence or experience beyond the normal or physical level.” It comes from a Latin prefix meaning ‘beyond,’ and the word scandare, meaning ‘to climb.’ When you achieve transcendence, you have gone beyond ordinary limitations. To say God is transcendent means that he exists beyond the normal or physical level. He is both above and beyond the normal, not limited to the earth and earthly things. When it comes to God, I want him to be far above and beyond the limits of this earth.
Listening to how God is spoken of in many churches today one gets the impression that we want a God who is imminent (near) rather than transcendent. Transcendence seems to be absent from our thoughts when we talk about God. We speak of God being our Father and how much he loves us and wants to be near us, and we do well, for that is true. But unless we also realize the great gulf between God and man, which was only breached by Jesus Christ, we are in danger of losing our awe at the Person of God. A kind of casualness soon creeps into our language and we end up speaking of God as if he was our buddy and personal friend rather than the majestic Creator of the ends of the earth.
One of the ways our loss of transcendence is apparent is in the absence of theological language in our pulpits when it comes to the ministry of the Word. “Give us practical teaching” the man in the pew clamors; “dumb things down so we can understand it.” I’m all for making things simple and clear, but we must remember we are dealing with the Person of God who is the most complex Being in the universe. In our zeal to be simple and plain, let’s not lose sight of the fact language itself defies explanation when it comes to this One.
The Bible is full of expressions that we should rejoice but with fear and trembling: “Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28). This is how both imminence and transcendence should inform our worship. Imminence means that God is my Father and is near to me, to hear my prayers and accept my worship. How precious are those moments when I sense his nearness, comforting me and assuring me. Paul simply exhorts us to “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:5).
But the same God who is near is “far above” all that is earthly: “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:2). David is not suggesting in this statement God is unknowable, but that he is unknowable in his totality. In other words, he is so far beyond us; we shall never run out of things to discover about God. Think about that. I believe one of the reasons we are given eternal life in Christ is that we might study our God forever and ever! We will never be bored with this pursuit or run out of things to discover.
We must keep a balance in our knowledge of God so that He is both “nearby” and “far away” (Jeremiah 23:23). Having said that, I hope for a return of transcendence to our concept of God so that the Church of God once again worships a Being who is far beyond anything we have ever known. A strong dose of transcendence is needed in a day when the imminence of God is sought after while the “otherness” of God is rarely understood.